SAVAGE, ISSUE #1
Writer: Max Bemis
Illustrator: Nathan Stockman
Publisher: Valiant Entertainment
WHAT IS IT?
Valiant is back in the dinosaur hunting business.
A new creative team launches a brand new Savage, finding the semi-feral teen who grew up on an island of monsters trying to settle into life back in modern day London.
Think the man-versus-monster world of Turok: Dinosaur Hunter combined with a Tarzan turned into a modern viral sensation.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Kevin Sauvage, Jr. was just a baby when his world-famous parents crashed in “the Faraway,” a dimension out of time. He survived, thanks to their sacrifices, and became a deadly hunter in his own right. Eventually, carving his way through numerous strange dinosaurs and a gang of homicidal castaways, he made it home.
Now, Kevin awkwardly copes with life as a tabloid sensation, his life story and rugged looks translating into sudden fame as “Savage.” He can talk the talk (mostly) and walk the walk (barefoot), but nothing feels normal and no one really understands him.
Can Kevin, the apex predator of an extra-dimensional jungle, ever truly be at home in the city? Or feel safe in a world that watches his every move?
Max Bemis’s use of dialogue is witty, and the various social media references feel more authentic, if broadly funny, than dated or awkward.
Nathan Stockman’s art is dynamic in a way that works for over-the-top action and adds a fun expressiveness to even casual conversations.
Like most of Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou’s lettering, the work here is great and adapts well to sidewalk conversations and attempts to intimidate monstrous beasts with ease.
Colors have some extra weight in a book that mixes contrasts between a “normal” world of bright colors and eye-catching advertisements with a “fantasy” world of dinosaur hunting in the jungle. Triona Ferrell does excellent work, finding a balance that helps you believe both are equally real.
Marcus To and Rico Renzi’s cover art had a lot to do, re-introducing the main character to readers in a way that gets across who he generally is and what he’s dealing with, and they definitely pulled it off in a way that fits the book.
Fame plays an interesting role in the story, both contrasted and conflated with Kevin's survival. The question is whether the book will continue to explore those ideas.
The London that we are shown in the book is packed full of diversity and detail in a way that makes it feel lived-in and real, not a rough-sketched backdrop.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
As much as the “caveman speak” stereotype isn’t missed, I do hope there’s eventually an exploration of how the kid went from years of near-complete isolation to casual use of sarcasm and a strong regional accent.
Despite the intense popularity of the word as a synonym for “brutal,” “cold-blooded,” or “ruthless” there is a large and growing consensus that the word “savage” has got more than enough baggage to be considered a slur for indigenous peoples. The issue with the word “savage” jumps out a bit more with a context some new readers might not be aware of: Kevin Sauvage, Jr. occupies a similar space in the current Valiant setting to the one Turok and Andar, Native American heroes who were part of the 1990s Valiant universe, once did.
The big battle in the issue, while well-illustrated and packed full of great action, seemed like a major departure from the reality we’d just spent most of our time in. It felt almost cartoonish in a way the comic hadn’t explored before then. The main character’s performance in that battle was also jarring; throughout the issue, we’re given multiple indications of just how athletic a person and vicious a fighter Kevin can be, but his feats are suddenly superhuman.
Some bizarre characters introduced near the end of the book don’t seem to reflect any of the other elements the issue establishes or draws on, a solid tactic for getting attention but also a potential sign of a major swerve in the story.
Despite some smart use of social media as a lens—something a few Valiant books have done but fits especially well here—a lot of the “teen heartthrob” elements felt like they were lifted from much older stories.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Bemis and Stockman set the stage for a high-action series whose main character is “torn between two worlds” in an uncommon way. The conflict between his past, his nature, and the world he’s been shoved into is also a potential source of a lot of comedy and drama.
A series that can pay off on those ideas will definitely be worth following.
There’s a controlled chaos in Bemis and Stockman’s approach to Kevin “Savage” Sauvage that practically demands you check out the next page. If you are looking for a snappy new series with fun art and dynamic fight scenes, you don’t need to look much further than Savage #1.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Moon Knight (2017) by Max Bemis & Jacen Burrows
Savage vol. 1 by B. Clay Moore & Clayton Henry and Lewis LaRosa
Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur by Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder & Natacha Bustos
If you like the art:
Doctor Strange and the Sorcerers Supreme vol. 2 by Robbie Thompson & Javier Rodriguez and Nate Stockman
A&A: The Adventures of Archer and Armstrong by Rafer Roberts & David Lafuente
Turok by Ron Marz & Robert Castro
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Max Bemis – Writer
Starting his career in comics in 2013, Bemis has written multiple series for Marvel and Boom! Studios over the course of the last 8 years.
Multitalented: He’s best known outside of comics for his work as a musician with the band Say Anything, which produced 10 albums.
His debut series, Polarity, was about a man with a bipolar diagnosis and superpowers, something that Bemis used his own personal experience to explore in an authentic and complex way.
Nate Stockman – Illustrator
Stockman’s first published comic work was drawing Swiss Army Woman for Pulp Girls by Super Real Graphics.
Nate got started by working in animation, which he’s said helped him hone his visual storytelling skills in a way he’s found useful after transitioning to comics.
He’s said that one of the properties he’d most like to work on one day is DC’s Legion of Superheroes.
Triona Farrell – Colorist
When asked in 2018 which book she’d worked on that she wished more people would read, she recommended Stephen Mooney’s Half Past Danger. So give it a look!
New Face: Triona’s first work in comics was Weaver for BOOM! in 2016. Since then she has worked on books for BOOM!, Marvel, Dark Horse, Vault, Image, and Aftershock Comics!
Outlander: Triona lives in Ireland, and has commented that the close and small comics community there has helped foster new talent.
Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou – Letterer
As a letterer, he frequently discusses the process and importance of lettering, on Twitter or in his series Strip Panel Naked.
Multitalented: Hassan has a background in film, having worked on a number of projects and starting his own YouTube channel in 2016.
Otsmane-Elhaou is the editor of PanelxPanel, an Eisner Award-winning digital magazine about comic books and visual storytelling.
David Menchel – Designer
He’s an author who is working on his first novel!
New Face: Menchel started his work in comics as an intern at Valiant in 2016, and has been working there as an editor since 2018.
David has been credited for his work on roughly 140 Valiant comics in the last 5 years!
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